Outspending his opponent significantly, County Mayor Ernest Burgess rolled past challenger Jimmy Evans in the Republican primary.
The two-term incumbent reported $213,576 in receipts from mid-January to April 26, including $150,000 in personal loans, according to information on file with the Rutherford County Election Office.
Burgess spent a total of $189,785 and has $23,790 on hand, according to records, for the August county general election when he faces two independent candidates, Heather Ann Brown and Teresa St. Clair.
In seeking a third term, Burgess collected 8,396 votes, 57.8 percent, to 6,094 votes, 42 percent, for Evans, a former county commissioner and election commissioner.
Evans reported receipts of $61,316 and total disbursements at $40,793. He also loaned his campaign more than $33,000 and had $20,522 on hand as of April 26.
Burgess, a former NHC executive, however, said he didn’t feel his campaign spending had anything to do with winning the primary.
“I think what gave me an advantage is a record of progress in the last seven and a half years and a record of treating everybody in this county equally with dignity and respect,” Burgess said.
Burgess spent more than $105,000 with Strategic Media Services, $8,696 with Direct Edge Campaigns on campaign mailers and $8,500 with Public Opinion Strategy on polling.
Evans and Burgess both previously said the other engaged in questionable campaign tactics. Evans accused the mayor of conducting a push poll that asked voters misleading questions. The mayor called Evans’ tactics “disappointing,” after the challenger sent out a mailer saying people should thank the mayor for allowing the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to build a new mosque, a matter that led to a protracted lawsuit, costing the county $320,000 so far in legal fees.
“I think the money was the difference in the race,” Evans said. “… I think he bought the race with the money.”
Evans added, though, “I congratulate him. He used his resources to do what he had to do.”
Evans said he didn’t feel the mailer about the ICM hurt his campaign, and he noted that it was factually correct. The challenger said he was surprised that Burgess put out a negative piece, so he responded.
“We just came up a little short. I don’t have any sour grapes,” Evans said.
Asked about a future mayoral campaign, he said, “Am I gonna run in four years? Right now, the answer is absolutely.”
Sheriff Robert Arnold won 8,384 votes, 59.8 percent, to former Deputy Chief Bob Asbury’s 5,535 votes, 39.5 percent, in the race to see who will represent the Republican Party in August.
He will go against Democrat Bill Kennedy, a former SRO supervisor, and independents Dale Armour, a TBI agent, and Jim Tramel, a former sheriff’s detective.
“Just working hard” enabled him to capture the nomination, Arnold said, adding he plans to continue that philosophy as the county general election approaches.
Arnold entered the race with $31,133 in the bank and totaled $31,955 in receipts, according to Election Office documents, listing a personal loan of $20,000. He spent $39,173 over three reporting cycles, including $6,500 with Griffin Strategies.
The sheriff clarified that the sheriff’s office drug fund contains more than $900,000 after it dipped to $364,000 from $760,700 three years ago.
Asbury reported receipts totaling $12,520 and expenditures of $11,226, with a loan of $1,299.
In other high-profile GOP races, Jennings Jones soundly defeated Chuck Ward for the district attorney general of the 16th Judicial District. Jennings picked up 7,848 votes, 62.21 percent, to Ward’s 4,758, 37.7 percent.
“Bill (Whitesell) has done a wonderful job in the office, and I hope to continue his legacy,” said Jones, an assistant district attorney under Whitesell, who is stepping away from the post.
Incumbent Gerald Melton defeated Andy Brunelle to reclaim the public defender’s post in the 16th Judicial District. Melton won 6,893 votes, including Cannon County, to Brunelle’s 5,923.
Melton said the key to his victory was that his office has always done its job with honesty and integrity and without seeking publicity. His goal is to be “a country lawyer,” he said, “and I have a wonderful staff of people and it would be impossible to do anything without them.”
Neither the DA winner nor the public defender winner faces competition in the August election.
For Circuit Court Clerk, challenger Melissa Harrell, 4,821 votes (37.7 percent) defeated incumbent Laura Bohling, 3,967 (31 percent) and Lance Jenkins 3,989 (31.2 percent). Harrell faces Democrat Avent Lane in August.
Register of Deeds Heather Dawbarn, 5,811 votes (42.2 percent), topped Steve Sandlin, 4,497 votes (35 percent) and Rusty Dallas, 2,515 votes (19.5 percent) to recapture the seat. She will be uncontested in August.
· Circuit Court Judge – 16tH Judicial District – Division I
Jeff Peach, 9,926 votes (faces incumbent Mark Rogers, independent, in August)
· Circuit Court Judge – 16th Judicial District – Division II
Nathan Nichols, 9,229 votes (faces incumbent David Bragg, independent, in August)
· Circuit Court Judge – 16th Judicial District – Division III
Keith Siskin, 10,042 (unopposed in August)
· Chancellor – 16th Judicial District
Howard Wilson, 10,031 (unopposed in August)
Teb Batey, Milton, 11,812 votes (unopposed in August)
· General Sessions Judge, Part I
Aaron Conklin, Murfreesboro, 4,977 (48.9 percent)
Kevin Hodges, Smyrna, 5,180 (50.93 percent – faces incumbent Ben Hall McFarlin, independent, in August)
· General Sessions Judge, Part II
Thomas D. “Tom” Frost, Murfreesboro, 3,556 (33.56 percent)
Eric Hennessee, Christiana, 2,926, (27.6 percent)
Barry Tidwell, Murfreesboro, 4,103 (37.6 percent – faces incumbent David Loughry, independent, in August)
· General Sessions Judge, Part III
Toby Gilley, Murfreesboro, 10,531 (faces incumbent Larry Brandon, Democrat, in August)
· Juvenile Court Judge
Donna Scott Davenport, Lascassas, 11,357 (unopposed in August)
· County Clerk
Lisa Duke Crowell, Murfreesboro, 10,872 (faces Pierrecia Lyons, Democrat, in August)